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Tracking data out-of-the-box

To track an event, the API is slightly different depending if you're using the JavaScript or Browser version of our web tracker.

For example, instrumenting a tracker and manually tracking a page view. Note that activity tracking (page pings) is also configured here.

import {
newTracker,
trackPageView
} from '@snowplow/browser-tracker';

newTracker('sp', '{{collector_url_here}}', {
appId: 'my-app-id',
});

enableActivityTracking({
minimumVisitLength: 30,
heartbeatDelay: 10
});

trackPageView();

The tracker makes it easy to track different kinds of data. We provide three kinds of base events - PageViews, Structured, and fully custom (Self-Describing) - that can be manually tracked. On top of this, we also provide a range of plugins for automatic and manual tracking of different events and entities.

Each event has an associated context, which is composed of entities. The tracker attaches entities to the events based on the tracker configuration and active plugins. You can also attach your own custom entities to all trackX method calls.

note

Tracker methods available through plugins do not necessarily support adding custom entities. For those please refer to the corresponding plugin documentation for details.

For example, here is a page view with an additional custom context entity.

snowplow('trackPageView', {
context: [{
schema: "iglu:com.example_company/page/jsonschema/1-2-1",
data: {
pageType: 'test',
lastUpdated: new Date(2021,04,01)
}
}]
});

Every tracked event payload has a unique event_id UUID string set by the tracker, a set of timestamps, and other ubiquitous properties such as the namespace. You can find out more about how events and entities are structured here.

Auto-tracked entities‚Äč

The tracker can be set up to automatically track certain events, or automatically add entities to every event sent. Most autotracking is specifically configured using plugins, which are imported, enabled, and configured individually.

However, the following autotracked context entities can be configured directly when instrumenting the tracker. To enable them, simply add their names and boolean to the contexts field of the configuration object. They will be added to every event tracked.

EntityUsageEnabled by default
webPageA UUID for the page view.true
sessionData about the current session.false
browserProperties of the user's browser.false

The following context entities can be configured by plugin, or when setting up the JavaScript tracker configuration object only. To automatically track these context entities when using the Browser tracker, use the plugin versions.

EntityUsageEnabled by default
performanceTimingPerformance timing metrics.true
gaCookiesExtract GA cookie values.true
geolocationUser's geolocation.false
clientHintsChrome user-agent Client Hintstrue

Manually-tracked events‚Äč

The tracker provides methods for tracking different types of events. The events are divided into two groups: canonical events and self-describing events. Canonical event properties have their own column in the data warehouse, while self-describing custom events are based on JSON schema.

Page view‚Äč

Read about page view tracking here.

Custom (self-describing)‚Äč

Our philosophy in creating Snowplow is that users should capture important user interactions and design suitable data structures for this data capture. You can read more about that philosophy here.

Read about how to track custom events here.

Structured‚Äč

There may be user interactions where custom self-describing events are too complex or unwarranted. They are candidates to track using trackStructEvent.

There are five parameters that can be associated with each structured event. Only the first two are required:

NameRequired?DescriptionType
CategoryYesThe name you supply for the group of objects you want to track e.g. 'media', 'ecomm'.String
ActionYesDefines the type of user interaction for the web object e.g. 'play-video', add-to-basket'.String
LabelNoIdentifies the specific object being actioned e.g. ID of the video being played, or the SKU or the product added to basket.String?
PropertyNoDescribing the object or the action performed on it. This might be the quantity of an item added to basket.String?
ValueNoQuantify or further describe the user action. This might be the price of an item added to basket, or the starting time of the video where play was just pressed.Float?

An example of tracking a user listening to a music mix:

snowplow('trackStructEvent', {
category: 'Mixes',
action: 'Play',
label: 'MrC/fabric-0503-mix',
property: '',
value: 0.0
});

Tracking data that is not event-type specific‚Äč

Some data, such as that relating to the user whose activity is being tracked, is relevant across all event types. The tracker provides two mechanisms for tracking this kind of data.

Certain properties, including domain_userid or application_id, can be set as "atomic" properties in the raw event. These properties have their own column in the data warehouse.

A more general and powerful method is to attach self-describing JSON "context entities" to your events - the same JSON schemas as used for self-describing events. This means that any data that can be described by a JSON schema can be added to any or all of your events. Read more here.

All events also provide the option for setting a custom timestamp, called trueTimestamp. See below for details.

Setting application ID‚Äč

Set the application ID using the appId field of the tracker configuration object. This will be attached to every event the tracker fires. You can set different application IDs on different parts of your site. You can then distinguish events that occur on different applications by grouping results based on application_id.

Setting application platform‚Äč

Set the application platform using the¬†platform¬†field of the tracker configuration object. This will be attached to every event the tracker fires. Its default value is ‚Äúweb‚ÄĚ. For a list of supported platforms, please see the¬†Snowplow Tracker Protocol.

Setting the user ID‚Äč

The JavaScript Tracker automatically sets a domain_userid based on a first party cookie. Read more about cookies here.

There are many situations, however, when you will want to identify a specific user using an ID generated by one of your business systems. To do this, you use one of the methods described in this section: setUserId, setUserIdFromLocation, setUserIdFromReferrer, and setUserIdFromCookie.

Typically, companies do this at points in the customer journey where users identify themselves e.g. if they log in.

note

This will only set the user ID on further events fired while the user is on this page; if you want events on another page to record this user ID too, you must call setUserId on the other page as well.

setUserId‚Äč

setUserId is the simplest of the four methods. It sets the business user ID to a string of your choice:

snowplow('setUserId', 'joe.blogs@email.com');
note

setUserId can also be called using the alias identifyUser.

setUserIdFromLocation‚Äč

setUserIdFromLocation¬†lets you set the user ID based on a querystring field of your choice. For example, if the URL is¬†http://www.mysite.com/home?id=user345, then the following code would set the user ID to ‚Äúuser345‚ÄĚ:

snowplow('setUserIdFromLocation', 'id');

setUserIdFromReferrer‚Äč

setUserIdFromReferrer functions in the same way as setUserIdFromLocation, except that it uses the referrer querystring rather than the querystring of the current page.

snowplow('setUserIdFromReferrer', 'id');

setUserIdFromCookie‚Äč

Use¬†setUserIdFromCookie¬†to set the value of a cookie as the user ID. For example, if you have a cookie called ‚Äúcookieid‚ÄĚ whose value is ‚Äúuser123‚ÄĚ, the following code would set the user ID to ‚Äúuser123‚ÄĚ:

snowplow('setUserIdFromCookie', 'cookieid');

Getting user ID once set‚Äč

It's possible to retrieve certain properties for use in your code, including the user ID, page view ID, and cookie values, using a tracker callback. This is an advanced usage of the tracker.

If you call snowplow with a function as the argument, the function will be executed when sp.js loads:

snowplow(function () {
console.log("sp.js has loaded");
});

Or equivalently:

snowplow(function (x) {
console.log(x);
}, "sp.js has loaded");

The callback you provide is executed as a method on the internal trackerDictionary object. This means that you can access the trackerDictionary using this.

// Configure a tracker instance named "sp"
snowplow('newTracker', 'sp', '{{COLLECTOR_URL}', {
appId: 'snowplowExampleApp'
});

// Access the tracker instance inside a callback
snowplow(function () {
var sp = this.sp;
var domainUserId = sp.getDomainUserId();
console.log(domainUserId);
})

The callback function should not be a method:

// TypeError: Illegal invocation
snowplow(console.log, "sp.js has loaded");

This will not work because the value of this in the console.log function will be the trackerDictionary rather than console.

You can get around this problem using Function.prototoype.bind as follows:

snowplow(console.log.bind(console), "sp.js has loaded");

For more on execution context in JavaScript, see the MDN page.

The getUserId method returns the user ID which you configured using setUserId():

// Access the tracker instance inside a callback
snowplow(function () {
var sp = this.sp;
var userId = sp.getUserId();
console.log(userId);
})

Setting a custom page URL and referrer URL‚Äč

The Snowplow JavaScript Tracker automatically tracks the page URL and referrer URL on any event tracked. However, in certain situations, you may want to override the one or both of these URLs with a custom value. For example, this might be desirable if your CMS spits out particularly ugly URLs that are hard to unpick at analysis time.

To set a custom page URL, use the setCustomUrl method:

snowplow('setCustomUrl', 'http://mysite.com/checkout-page');

To set a custom referrer, use the setReferrerUrl method:

snowplow('setReferrerUrl', 'http://custom-referrer.com');
For Single Page Apps

On an SPA, the page URL might change without the page being reloaded. Whenever an event is fired, the Tracker checks whether the page URL has changed since the last event. If it has, the page URL is updated and the URL at the time of the last event is used as the referrer. If you use setCustomUrl, the page URL will no longer be updated in this way. Similarly if you use setReferrerUrl, the referrer URL will no longer be updated in this way.

To use setCustomUrl within an SPA, call it before all trackPageView calls.

If you want to ensure that the original referrer is preserved even though your page URL can change without the page being reloaded, use setReferrerUrl like this before sending any events:

snowplow('setReferrerUrl', document.referrer);

Adding custom timestamps to events‚Äč

Snowplow events have several timestamps. The raw event payload always contains a deviceCreatedTimestamp (dtm) and a deviceSentTimestamp (stm). Other timestamps are added as the event moves through the pipeline.

Every trackX...() method in the tracker allows for a custom timestamp, called trueTimestamp to be set. Read more about timestamps in this still relevant forums post.

As standard, every event tracked by the Javascript tracker will be recorded with two timestamps:

  1. A device_created_tstamp - set when the event occurred
  2. A device_sent_tstamp - set when the event was sent by the tracker to the collector

These are combined downstream in the Snowplow pipeline (with the collector_tstamp) to calculate the derived_tstamp, which is our best estimate of when the event actually occurred.

In certain circumstances you might want to set the timestamp yourself e.g. if the JS tracker is being used to process historical event data, rather than tracking the events live. In this case you can set the true_timestamp for the event. When set, this will be used as the value in the derived_tstamp rather than a combination of the device_created_tstamp, device_sent_tstamp and collector_tstamp.

To set the true timestamp add an extra argument to your track method: {type: 'ttm', value: unixTimestampInMs}.

E.g. to set a true timestamp with a page view event:

snowplow('trackPageView', {
timestamp: { type: 'ttm', value: 1361553733371 }
});

E.g. to set a true timestamp for a self-describing event:

snowplow('trackSelfDescribingEvent', {
event: {
schema: 'iglu:com.acme_company/viewed_product/jsonschema/2-0-0',
data: {
productId: 'ASO01043',
category: 'Dresses',
brand: 'ACME',
returning: true,
price: 49.95,
sizes: ['xs', 's', 'l', 'xl', 'xxl'],
availableSince: new Date(2013,3,7)
}
},
timestamp: { type: 'ttm', value: 1361553733371 }
});
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